Well, we planted the backdrop today. There is a great little shop near here called Sunshine Miniature Trees that has an incredible selection of Bonsais and other neat plants. They have been here for 17 years, and the owner and staff are incredibly helpful and knowledgable. I still do not understand how we could have lived here this long, and not been in there before. With their help, and an assortment of ( less wonderful but still serviceable ) plants we got from the $.99 store, we were ready to plant the back.
Most of the back is always at least damp from the fountain overflow, but it's not necessarily soggy all the time. I expect some of the plants wont be able to handle the damp and will melt, but we've done our best to give them a good chance. For most of the plants, we removed them from the container and rinsed as much of the soil off as we could manage. I then repacked them into peat pots using a potting medium recommended by the owner of Sunshine called 'Cornell Mix'. It's a light weight potting medium made up mostly of peat, with some perlite and other ingredients mixed in. According to him, we should not have to worry about it leaching or monkeying with our water chemistry to any great degree.
The peat pots were then set into a bed of 'Aquatic Soil' which is basically a mixture of perlite and vermiculite, two largely inert forms of fired and unfired clay. The peat pots are set above the water level in the aquarium soil, so we are hoping that the net result will be plants that stay wet, but not soggy. Since they are in the peat pots, we also retain the ability pull them out and let them dry out if need be.
There were a few exceptions to this rule. The climbing fig vine behind the central piece of driftwood remains in it's own pot, and will have to be watered by hand, since it remains well clear of the water. The small jade plant planted in the piece of driftwood is planted directly in a bed of the aquatic soil. We're less concered about moisture there, but I'm a little concerned about keeping it fertilized without leaching into the water. Still, we have high hopes for it.
The Bonsai Juniper, the Fukien Tea and the climbing ivy behind the left water fall are also still in their own pots, since there was not really any planting space behind the fountain. The plant on the far right is called 'irish moss' ( though it is a rooted plant ). I'm a little concerened that the peat pot will occsionally be sitting it water, instead of just wet aquatic soil. If this proves to be the case, I may try to move it into an unglazed terracotta pot. It should be easy enough to conceal, and should protect the soil roots from sitting in mud.
We also purchased some Kyoto moss spores to try to dress out the naked stone on the fountains, but upon further investigation, it may require more care and feeding than we will be able to give it - however, for $5, we figured it was worth a try. We've started a small test batch of it in a sheltered area on the right, but the conditions may be too hostile for it to get established. If so, we will probably start looking for some friendly lichens or other, less picky mosses to get established to try to minimize alage growth and soften some of the lines. If you have any suggestions, please let us know.
Lastly, we are waiting for Sunshine to get in some small epiphytes that we can distribute around the rock, driftwood and stand to complete the external decorations. We are also toying with trying to introduce some java moss into the always wet areas around the right hand fountain.